I walked down a big, big hill, behind a chatty woman with three small dogs on continuously tangling leashes. They frequently stopped to pee. My dog frequently sniffed them from behind because she does not understand consent. We talked about snow and dogs and pleasantries with no substance, but it was easy like drinking a beer under a shady tree. We got to the bottom, slunk down four crumbling steps, and came out to the right close to downtown. She crossed over shortly, bidding farewell.

I kept on, alone, my body wired with the tension of navigating a new place. I stepped gingerly, my face in the wind, down to the intersection at State with the loud “clack-clack” to let me know it wasn’t yet time. As the light change, bells in downtown Montpelier began “My Country Tis of Thee.” For the 4th of July, tomorrow.

Often, people tell me I am so brave to do what I do. Especially, to navigate unknown cities. What I think they are actually in awe of is that I do these things and I EXPECT them to go smoothly. Or, if not smoothly, at least I keep trying. I realize, suddenly, humbly, that perhaps everyone is right. Perhaps the most radically brave thing I can do right now is walk with my head high in a place that I don’t know, in a world that is not built for me, with freedom bells in my ears and a dog jumpy with excitement at my side. And through grit and attention I’ll find what I’m looking for, a gastropub snug in the heart of Main Street, and I’ll sit in the window of the crowded room and drink an IPA whose bitterness fills my nose, and eat a plate of skinny fries doused in mustard, mine all mine. You, little bird, you with your curiosity and your hunger for life, you are the bravest one in this room right now.

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